Category Archives: Media Librarianship

The Brain of a Media Librarian

Over the weekend, I was talking with a friend who is also a media librarian. She asked if I was going to watch the Super Bowl, which launched an interesting conversation about how we can’t turn our “media brains” off when watching anything. Watching an event like the Super Bowl raises so many media issues–politics in sports, televised violence, sexism–and that’s just the game. Add in the commercials and the half-time show and the spectacle turns into information overload to someone attuned to analyzing what they are watching.

The answer turned out to be: I watched the second half. Actually turned it on partway through the halftime show, and got to see part of the awful performance by the Black Eyed Peas.

I just want to point out a few things that intrigued me post-spectacle.

Salon posted an interesting article the day after the game, The Super Bowl’s Bloated, Chaotic Spectacle, which analyzed some of the media-related issues which surround the game. The article, to a certain extent, captures the experience of being the kind of attentive viewer that is compelled to analyze something that is seen by most people as “mere entertainment.” Of course, what entertains us say a lot about who we are and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

A couple of commercials that they don’t mention seem worth pointing out. One is this ad from Groupon that exploits the political strife in Tibet. I found it rather surprising that a company would decide to use such a sensitive political issue to try to hawk their goods. I haven’t seen any backlash against this ad, but there has been some against a tweet by Kenneth Cole who tried to capitalize on the recent events in Egypt. Perhaps the latter story created more of a stir because those events have been more in the news recently.

I did not see this other commercial during the game but came across it later via a Grist article. It is a piece of industry sponsored propaganda from Americans Against Food Taxes.

As the author of the Grist piece points out, the most outlandish part of the ad is the claim that we should resist the government trying to control what we eat and drink when the existing subsidies are what make soda so inexpensive to drink in the first place.

Finally, here is an interesting interview with Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States and co-author of the documentary Not Just a Game: Power, Politics & American Sports, who provides some insight into the role of politics in sports.

Not Just a Game | Media Education Foundation : taken from – http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=151
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

Louis Sullivan: The Struggle for American Architecture

Louis Sullivan: The Struggle for American Architecture is a suburb biographical film about the eponymous architect. The film traces his life and work from the late 19th and into the early 20th Century and emphasizes the ways he related architecture to nature and to social values in an effort to create a uniquely American architecture. It also explores his working relationship with and influence on Frank Lloyd Wright.

The film begins with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the rebuilding process in the following years where architects were much in demand. The film provides brief glimpses of Chicago history that places Sullivan’s work in a greater context.

In many ways, the film is a pretty straight-forward bio pic told in strict chronology and does nothing new with the form, but it does all the conventional things quite well. The experts interviewed are interesting. The archival footage appropriate and fascinating. One of the real strengths is the wonderfully filmed examples of his architectural designs. Louis Sullivan is a beautiful film to watch.

Sullivan’s rise and subsequent struggles make for a compelling story. Much to its credit, the film is very convincing that Sullivan, who is probably not as well known as he should be, is an important and original architect whose work ranks with some of the best in the world. Sullivan’s work is a fascinating bridge between the dying Victorian influences and truly modern work.

Video Round Table

My involvement with the American Library Association’s Video Round Table will be keeping me busy for the foreseeable future. As I mentioned last week, the program I helped put together as the chair of the Program Committee is coming up in a couple of weeks at ALA’s annual conference.

I also have volunteered to serve for another 2 years on the Notable Videos for Adults Committee and the films we will be reviewing are starting to come in. I really enjoyed being on the committee the past two years even though it’s a big time commitment. For the past two years, I have blogged about most of the movies I viewed (2009 and 2010). I debated whether or not I wanted to blog about the films again this year. My hesitation stems from the fact that I have never been able to keep up with posts for all the movies I watch. But looking back at the posts, I realize that they have been helpful to me at least when the time comes to deliberate about the films and help select a list. And just because I haven’t been able to keep up with the posts in the past doesn’t mean I won’t be able to this year, right?

And, finally, I have been elected as the incoming Vice Chair/Chair Elect for the Video Round Table with my tenure as Vice Chair beginning on July 1. I look forward to serving in this capacity as I have found my involvement with the Round Table these past few years very rewarding and really enjoy working with the other members.

Transliteracy and Media Literacy

I’ve recently become fascinated by the surge of interest in the concept of Transliteracy.  One of the things I find fascinating is that, for a new term, it’s not really all that new. In a way, it’s just a fancy new term for media literacy with a few different twists. The Center for Media Literacy defines media literacy as:

a 21st century approach to education. It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate and create messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.

Similarly, the National Association for Media Literacy Education states:

Media literacy– the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, and COMMUNICATE information in a variety of forms-is interdisciplinary by nature. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the complex, ever-changing electronic environment and communication cornucopia that surround us.

Although media literacy began as a reaction to the perceived negative influence of Mass Media during the middle of the 20th century, it has evolved to include and analysis and understanding of a variety of emerging media. In this way, media literacy is not much different than transliteracy, which The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) defines as:

an umbrella term encompassing different literacies and multiple communication channels that require active participation with and across a range of platforms, and embracing both linear and non-linear messages.

Despite the fact that print is a communication medium, media literacy tends to focus on non-print or non-text print materials. Transliteracy attempts to be broader. IFLA, in its report “Transliteracy: take a walk on a wild side,” quotes Sue Thomas, who defines transliteracy as “what it means to be literate in the 21st Century,” that is, having a “unifying perspective” on the ability to “read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.”

In this respect, media literacy can be considered a sub-topic of transliteracy. Regardless of how one chooses to use the terminology, the emerging field of transliteracy is building on the foundation set forth by media literacy.

Having a long-standing interest in media literacy in my work as a media librarian, the recent wave of interest in transliteracy fascinates me, and I hope to investigate and write more about it, especially as to how it relates to libraries.

Beauty Mark

Back in the summer, I saw Youth Knows No Pain at CineVegas. At the time, I hoped that it would be available on DVD in time to be eligible for the Notable Videos Committee. I thought it was a great film about body image and the length people will go to in order to live up to preconceived notions of beauty. One of the most engaging parts of the film is the way it balances a personal story with facts.

I bring this up in a review about Beauty Mark: Body Image & The Race for Perfection because it is a very similar film. Unfortunately, I did not find it as engaging as Youth Knows No Pain. I think if I had not seen Youth, I would have liked Beauty Mark more than I did because it is a very good documentary by Diane Israel who is a psychotherapist and athlete. Like Mitch McCabe’s Youth, Beauty Mark is a very personal film since both directors are also the main characters in each film.

Both filmmakers explore how their young lives affected their images of their adult selves. Israel focuses on growing up as a competitive athlete. McCabe’s father was a plastic surgeon. Whereas Israel keeps the focus on her own life, Youth Knows No Pain goes beyond the personal with a series of interviews with other people talking about their self-image.

The shorter educational version of Beauty Mark was nominated for the committee and I wonder if I would find the longer version more interesting.

Although I feel that Youth Knows No Pain is a better film, I do think Beauty Mark has plenty to recommend it. This would be a great film to show in a classroom to begin a conversation about body image.

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